Women Aren't The Only Infertile Ones Around Here

Illustration for article titled Women Arent The Only Infertile Ones Around Here

You know how ladies today are always forgetting to get pregnant, because of the Pill and feminism and everything? Well, now it's time to blame guys too. Specifically, their sperm.

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Heather Turgeon's Daily Beast article on what I'd like to call the Great Sperm Decline isn't really news — studies suggesting that men's genetic material may in fact play some role in conception and a healthy baby have been around for a while. Turgeon does note a relatively new report by the European Science Foundation warning that one in five 18-25-year-old men is "subfertile," and other studies showing that the plastic additive BPA and agricultural pesticides can affect sperm quality and quantity. So, she points out, can lifestyle factors like smoking and diet. But the larger question is: are we going to pay as much attention to men's fertility as we historically have to women's? And if so, can we avoid disastrously fucking it up?

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There's lots of information out there for women trying to conceive, or for pregnant women who want the best shot at a healthy baby (in the latter category, Annie Paul's Origins is an interesting read). But there's even more guilt, shame, and bullshit — women are waiting too long to conceive, they're eating the wrong foods, they're at the wrong weight, they're too stressed or not stressed enough. Or they're using fertility treatments and there's a whole extra level of armchair judgment around whether they "should" be going about having a baby that way. Through all of this, there's a general assumption that having a baby is essentially a woman's project — she decides when it happens (meaning it's all her fault if it happens at the wrong time), and she's the one who's responsible for anything that goes wrong.

Actually recognizing that dudes (or, in some cases, just their sperm) play a role in conception could reset the balance a bit — and in a way it would be nice for guys to share some of the heat women have long been feeling on this issue. But talking to men in the same blaming, shaming, finger-wagging way we currently talk to women would just multiply the injustice. We need a way of discussing fertility and pregnancy that recognizes all parents involved in the process, and that gives them the information they need without scolding them for things they can't control. We also need to pay attention to the ways we're making conception and healthy pregnancy harder for people, from dangerous chemicals to food deserts to a still-broken health care system to insufficient maternity and paternity leave. Acknowledging men's role in fertility is an important step — the next would be acknowledging society's.

Low Sperm Count: Why Male Fertility Is Falling [Daily Beast]

Image via nito/Shutterstock.com

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DISCUSSION

This is a topic that touches me deeply.

My husband and I tried to get pregnant right after we got married. After a year of trying, with no luck, we went to the fertility doctor. My husband was very supportive, constantly reminding me that he loved me no matter what. I get prescribed a whole lot of blood work and vag examinations and he has to shoot a wad into a cup. The doctor called me numerous times to get in touch with me to give me the results = no swimmies in the cup, not even one (there should be around 9 million).

We proceed to appointments to a urologist who performs surgery and a biopsy on his balls. If they found a sperm in his tissue we might be able to work with it. Result = no swimmies in the tissue of his balls. Diagnosis = sertoli cell only syndrome = no sperm ever in his life. Our only hope is stem cells, and the scientists aren't working too hard on this problem.

He was crushed. He cried for hours. He was scared that I'd leave him. My mother suggested that I leave him. I joined online support groups, only to get super freaked out that women were dealing with husbands that attempted suicide because of the diagnosis.

The doctors we gleeful that everything was in order in my junk, so they started the hard press for a sperm donor insemination for me (at 20k, they saw me as a sure thing). Also, it's a little known fact that birth stats, pregnancy stats, insemination stats are all federal reported for every fertility doctor. So a woman like me was a great way to pump the stats.

We did not (and still don't) like the idea of giving birth to a random guy's baby (tried many years to PREVENT that from happening). Also, I read about some kids of donors who feel that their conception solved their mom's infertility issues but created a whole life of problems for them.

I consider US infertile. It takes two people to conceive. Fertility belongs to two people, not to a single person. Adoption gets you a kid, but does not cure your infertility. You don't get to see whose eyes the baby gets, or whose talents, etc.

The absolute worst part about the situation is all the women who feel sorry for me. The sorrowful looks and deep hugs. The ladies that think that there is something wrong with me and who tell me that if I just relax it'll happen; I'll get pregnant. Sometimes, I snap back and tell them that if I do miraculously get pregnant, I'll likely end up divorced. They get confused and then they realize and then the discussion stops, because we don't speak about a man's infertility.

I am getting my Grad degree instead of giving birth.

I am very happy with my life, my future, and my husband, something that completely perplexes everyone around me, which is very hard to battle.

I hate baby showers.